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El Dorado County Growers Alliance claims sheriff's deputies 'ransacking' legal marijuana grows

The Growers Alliance claims “anti-cannabis raids” have been going on almost the entire time since the ordinance was passed in the county.
Credit: AP
FILE - This April 15, 2017 file photo shows marijuana plants for sale at the ShowGrow dispensary a medical marijuana provider in downtown Los Angeles. California's struggling legal cannabis industry is expected to grow next year to $3.1 billion, but it remains far outmatched by the state's thriving illegal market. A report released Thursday, Aug. 15, 2019, finds consumers are spending roughly $3 in the state's underground pot economy for every $1 in the legal one. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel,File)

EL DORADO COUNTY, Calif. — The El Dorado County Growers Alliance is speaking out against the tactics used by the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office, alleging “vigilante mentality” and ransacking of private property by deputies targeting legal marijuana grows.

In May 2020, the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors passed ordinance #5122 allowing for private cultivation of cannabis. The ordinance follows guidance passed by the state of California, which states individuals who are at least 21 years old may grow up to six plants for personal use.

In El Dorado County, the personal cultivation ordinance states plants can only contain a maximum of .3% THC content. THC, short for Tetrahydrocannabinol, is the main psychoactive substance in marijuana. The THC content is regulated by the Department of Agriculture, but at a Board of Supervisors meeting on June 23, Sheriff John D’Agostini said he doesn’t trust the integrity of those tests.

In a statement sent out on June 29, the Growers Alliance claims “anti-cannabis raids” have been going on almost the entire time since the ordinance was passed in the county.

“At several properties, [deputies] caused extensive property damage such as destroying greenhouses, ransacking houses, breaking windows, and destroying safes,” the release stated, adding details on one specific alleged incident. “Raiding a property, they jumped the neighboring fence and eradicated a mother's legal medical garden. Her son has seizures.”

D’agostini, said the raids conducted so far have all be on illegal grow operations, with some having thousands of plants or plants whose THC content exceeded the .3% threshold. As for the accusation of homes being ransacked, the sheriff’s office had this to say:

“We have recently seen complaints on social media regarding the Sheriff’s Office destroying property, including safes and green houses (sic). If the contents inside of a safe are part of the search warrant, it will be searched. Safes have only been broken into when the owner refuses to provide the combination, flees the area and/or a locksmith is unavailable or unable to open the safe. It is also common practice and for health and safety measures that “hoop houses” are dismantled due to health concerns and heat prior to the personnel beginning the eradication process.”

El Dorado County regulations, when it comes to personal cultivation of cannabis, states that residents can grow medical cannabis outdoors for personal use. The ordinance allows for 200 square feet of plants per medical marijuana card, and up to 600 square feet total for a collective.

ABC10 has reached out to the El Dorado County Sheriff's Office and an attorney representing the El Dorado County Growers Alliance for further comment. We will add more details as soon as we hear back from them.

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